Coming into this season there were many people that believed it was a foregone conclusion that the Oklahoma City Thunder would be in the NBA Finals for the second straight year. Though the Thunder are one of the best teams in the league, their road back to the Finals may not be set in stone already.
On Monday night the Thunder were pretty easily handled by the San Antonio Spurs, who were playing without Tony Parker, and ended up losing by a score of 105-93. It’s pointless to overreact to the result of one game, but the loss pointed out something very important for the Thunder: they might have trouble getting past the Spurs in the NBA Playoffs.
Royce Young of Daily Thunder discussed in his reaction to Monday’s game that in the Thunder’s series with the Spurs last year, they lost the first two games in San Antonio. He also notes that if the standings hold as they are now, the Thunder will once again be playing the first two games of their playoff series in Texas if that series were to take place.
Last season, the Thunder could rely on James Harden to come in and provide a spark to their squad when things weren’t going well. When things looked like they were about to turn south on Monday, Russell Westbrook was forced to provide that offense, which actually resulted in him shooting a little too much. Herein lies the problem when the Thunder play the Spurs this season.
Oklahoma City relies on Kevin Martin to come off the bench and provide them with scoring this year. Martin has been effective, but he’s obviously not anywhere near the level of player that Harden is. On Monday against the Spurs when things started to get out of hand, Martin disappeared and didn’t hit a shot in the second half, something that would have never happened with Harden.
It’s unfair to Martin to compare him to Harden because it’s common knowledge that Harden is a potential superstar and Martin is a sixth man. However, when it comes to factors that contribute to winning and losing, it’s an important thing to note.
The Thunder are still one of the best teams in the Association. However, the Spurs have had their number this year, beating them in two of their three meetings. San Antonio plays tremendous defense that sometimes frustrates Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Last season the Thunder heavily relied on Harden to get past the Spurs and make it to the Finals. This year, Harden is playing for the Houston Rockets.
There’s still an enormous chance that the Thunder will once again be participating in the NBA Finals when June rolls around. The important thing to note, especially if you’re the Spurs, is that it’s not a certainty.